More than 20,000 people in Detroit are homeless. Veronika Scott, 24, a product designer, wanted to help, so she created a winter coat that converts into a sleeping bag to protect the homeless from the cold. When she brought her first prototype to a local shelter, the women there were not impressed. "We don't need coats," one told her. "We need jobs."
Her big idea:
Scott quickly realized that "you need to invest in the person rather than the product," she says. She started a nonprofit, The Empowerment Plan, to provide on-the-job training for women living in Detroit-based shelters. The women learn manufacturing skills from a professional seamstress and produce Scott's coats, which are distributed to homeless populations nationwide.
Scott now employs 10 formerly homeless women who will soon be able to produce at least 600 coats a month. Next year, she plans to hire more workers and distribute as many as 8,500 coats. "I'm known as the crazy coat lady," Scott says.